Online escape games (sometimes known as online escape rooms) are a bit of a new phenomenon that have grown out of the Covid-19 pandemic. Escape room companies had to shut their doors in March 2020 so turned to the Internet to offer games online to help keep them afloat. There were plenty of Play at Home games available prior to Covid, with the most popular being the likes of ‘Unlock!’ and ‘Exit: The Game’ which are still very popular but now have a lot more competition.
If you’re looking for an activity to do with family or friends that you can do while still being socially distant, then online escape games are a great alternative to the standard weekly quiz. There are a number of different types of game and most of them can be played in separate households simultaneously. We find that having a Zoom call running in the background is a useful way to collaborate on puzzles – but really that depends on the online escape game style that you choose.
When looking at online escape games, we like to categorise them into four distinct sections, although some of games can blur the lines and fit into multiple categories. Broadly speaking, here are the types of online escape game that you may encounter, we won’t mention any specific games here so be sure to check out the relevant section of the blog for the styles that interest you.
These online escape games are exactly as they sound: purely online. You don’t need a printer or any physical items (although a notepad and pen is always useful). Some games are designed to be collaborative and allow you each to control a cursor on the same screen while others can only be controlled by one person. The latter of these games is where the ability to screen share on something like Zoom is very useful.
These games also vary wildly in style, from those that emulate a point and click video game, to others that are more reminiscent of the choose your own adventure books. Others use images and videos to showcase their puzzles, or you might come across those that are online scavenger hunts, filled with puzzles and cryptic riddles – or a mixture of all of those things.
These are as close as you’ll get to a physical escape room online, simply because they are physical escape rooms. Your gamesmaster takes on the roll of a live avatar that you ‘control’ to solve the room. Your team normally join a Zoom call that the company has set up and then you ask the avatar to look at certain items, and to try codes in padlocks etc…
Not all live avatar rooms have the same features, you may find some that are as ‘basic’ as one camera that the avatar directs, while others use multiple cameras, an inventory system, and more complex setups.
There are so many great physical escape rooms around the world and the chance of getting to do them in real life is slim, the live avatar experience is the next best thing to being in the room. It’s worth noting though that live avatar rooms are often the most expensive of the online escape game experiences.
Exactly as it sounds, you buy an online escape game, and normally you are sent a PDF file that you need to print in order to be able to play. We’ve found that these games often involve a lot of cutting so make sure you allow ample preparation time before you actually want to play.
Not everyone has a printer, so a number of companies offer a printing service to help you out. These cost a little more but it’s still cheaper than buying a printer, ink and paper!
Some companies get very creative with their print + play games and you won’t just be printing a piece of paper and keeping it intact, some of them need to be cut, and some can turn into rather intricate 3D models that you need to solve (don’t worry, you don’t need to be an origami master).
Escape room boxes are a different breed all together. Generally they are self contained games and everything you need will be in the box you receive. However, sometimes there are phone apps you can use to enhance your experience or sometimes they will require you to go online to continue your investigations.
Make sure you check what will be needed before you buy an escape game box. Generally we’ve found that with the ‘Unlock!’ and ‘Exit: The Game’ boxes you don’t need anything other than what is contained in the box (plus a smartphone or tablet for ‘Unlock!’). However other experiences generally seem to need at least a connection to the internet.
So that’s it! Those are the main types of game available and they are certainly more fun than a weekly quiz. If you decide to give them a go, let us know how you get on in the comments below.